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Best Attic and Basement Before and Afters

You wowed us with ways to build out relaxing spaces above and below your typical living quarters

Capitalizing on Space

When cramped living quarters left these readers looking to expand, they looked up and down to drafty attics and dingy basements to secure extra square footage. Here are 15 of our favorite attic and basement revamps, pulled directly from entries in our 2014 Search for America's Best Remodel Contest.

Doubled Entertaining Space: Before

Who: Elizabeth H.

Where: Westfield, IN

"We drywalled, installed carpet and board-and-batten wainscoting, created a fireplace wall, built custom shelves, restored an antique fireplace mantel, painted, added light fixtures, added kitchen cabinets, and built a butcher-block bar for entertaining."

Doubled Entertaining Space: After

Who: Elizabeth H.

Where: Westfield, IN

"Finishing the basement gave us double the entertaining space in our home! I didn't want the space to have the typical "dark" and secluded basement feel, and love that it turned out to be a continual flow of our style from the rest of the house with a warm and cozy touch!"

Who did the work: "We did most of the work ourselves."

Cost: $5,000 to $10,000

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From Basement to Bedroom: Before

Who: Kristine N.

Where: Edison, NJ

"For our basement renovation, we removed carpet, replaced stairs carpet, added two chandeliers, added a bathroom, added a guest room and an office, added LED lights on stairs, put in vinyl floor tiles and mirrored storage."

From Basement to Bedroom: After

Who: Kristine N.

Where: Edison, NJ

"It's more for our two kids, so they can have use for the basement as they grow. We like the chandeliers, plus having more space and a modern/contemporary design."

Who did the work: "We did some of the work ourselves but a contractor did most of it."

Cost: $10,000 to $25,000

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New Bar Space Makes Entertaining Fun and Easy: Before

Who: Rocco D.

Where: Hellertown, PA

"Gutted existing framing back down to concrete walls. Reframed new walls including all exterior walls. Cut in new egress window in guest bedroom. Broke concrete floor to rough in new sewer line to new bathroom location. Ran new water lines."

New Bar Space Makes Entertaining Fun and Easy: After

Who: Rocco D.

Where: Hellertown, PA

"We really enjoy the space it opened up for entertaining our friends and family. We love watching football at the bar and have had several parties with 20-plus people here."

Who did the work: "We did most of the work ourselves."

Cost: $10,000 to $25,000

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With Remodel, Basement Becomes Favorite Family Hangout: Before

Who: Melissa C.

Where: La Grange, KY

"We threw around lots of different ideas on the layout of the space and had a hard time designing it to suit our needs. We needed to fit in an office, workout room, and media room. Finally, a friend of ours (who helped us on the project) made the suggestion that brought all of our ideas together and made it work. Besides the design, drywalling was the hardest part. I won't be sad if I never have to do it again!"

With Remodel, Basement Becomes Favorite Family Hangout: After

Who: Melissa C.

Where: La Grange, KY

"We use it every day (we rarely used it before) and have had lots of great family movie nights here since we finished it. If you ask my husband what he likes best, he would say the TV and sound system. Also, his office is in the basement, and we insulated it with Roxul, which dampens sound. Our boys love to have their friends over to watch movies and play video games on the TV."

Who did the work: "We did most of the work ourselves."

Cost: $5,000 to $10,000

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Custom Carpentry Completes a Space: Before

Who: Chris D.

Where: Pawling, NY

"Gutted room, shot down sub floor to concrete slab, installed reclaimed chestnut flooring, installed tile, constructed built-ins and cabinets, trim work (walls, windows), constructed coffered ceiling, painted, stained, taped, sanded, installed Windows, re-sided outside, re-wired room, and installed lighting. Inset custom rug into floor for a flush, clean surface."

Custom Carpentry Completes a Space: After

Who: Chris D.

Where: Pawling, NY

"It's everyone's favorite room, including our yellow and chocolate Labradors'."

Who did the work: "I did all the work myself"

Cost: $1,000 to $5,000

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A Basement Becomes the Favorite Room in the House: Before

Who: Chris L.

Where: Catonsville, MD

"I took down all walls and demoed to the foundation. I reframed the room to the layout I wanted, built a laundry room, added a utility closet, storage closet, a full bath, and nearly doubled the living space of my home by building a living room in my basement."

A Basement Becomes the Favorite Room in the House: After

Who: Chris L.

Where: Catonsville, MD

"I enjoyed the time I got to spend with my father, we both had no idea what we were doing at the start. But by the end, we were saying measurements with precision and cutting like professionals. The project really brought us closer, and the finished product isn't bad either. It's now the most used room in the house."

Who did the work: "We did all the work ourselves."

Cost: $1,000 to $5,000

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A Colonial Basement Is Reborn: Before

Who: Hilary S.

Where: Richland, PA

"This space of our basement originally served as the kitchen in our colonial home. We had to gut the room, replumb the heating system, install a new electrical panel, move the furnace, pour concrete curbing and install a sump to mitigate future floods, tear down and rebuild the fireplace, restore the butcher stove, install Sheetrock, electrical fixtures, cabinets, stone floor, furnace surround, and mantel."

A Colonial Basement Is Reborn: After

Who: Hilary S.

Where: Richland, PA

"I love that we were able to keep the character of an old kitchen and that we saved the butcher stove and some of the original wood and hardware. During the renovation we addressed a lot of systemic problems in the house, and the overall health of the electrical and plumbing is in much better shape. Our house is much warmer, and we are better prepared the next time our creek floods. We also found some great treasures in the demo!"

Who did the work: "We did most of the work ourselves."

Cost: $10,000 to $25,000

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An Attic With a View: Before

Who: Vickie B.

Where: Caledonia, MI

"One evening while placing a box in the attic, I walked up to find a brilliant sunset streaming through a tiny attic window. As I carefully traversed over 150-year-old joists, I peeked out the window and realized that for 150 years no one has ever celebrated this view. As I crossed over to the east side of the attic, I found the same vantage point. The sunrises and sunsets are stunning! What a treasure that no one had enjoyed."

An Attic With a View: After

Who: Vickie B.

Where: Caledonia, MI

"I love our special getaway space. We own our own companies and we are so "accessible." We promised each other that when the remodel was completed we would do nothing in this space but enjoy family, close friends, reading, and napping!"

Who did the work: "We did most of the work ourselves."

Cost: $5,000 to $10,000

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Theater, Exercise Room, and More: Before

Who: Holly F.

Where: Carthage, IL

"All of the work was done by myself and my husband, except for the carpet laying and instruction on how to mud drywall—we did the design, picked out the materials, and installed it all (though we had to occasionally get the help of YouTube!). We turned 1,200 square feet of completely unfinished basement into about 1,000 square feet of living space—theater, bedroom, family room, storage closet, exercise room, and more!"

Theater, Exercise Room, and More: After

Who: Holly F.

Where: Carthage, IL

"We spent lots of nights down there until after midnight, but I think we both secretly miss the time together. Honestly, we love all of it, but I especially enjoy watching movies in the theater, as well as the dedicated exercise room."

Who did the work: "We did most of the work ourselves."

Cost: $25,000 to $50,000

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Time Well Spent: Before

Who: Noelle R.

Where: Hamburg, PA

"Ripped out the drop ceiling, carpet, and staircase. Studded out the ceiling, added drywall, and put in recessed lighting. Drywalled the wood paneling. Spackled, sanded, primed, and painted the drywall. Ripped up old carpet and put down floating laminate floor and tiled the entryway. My husband got kiln-dried, quartersawn red oak for the stair tread, planed it, custom stained it, and installed spindles and a railing."

Time Well Spent: After

Who: Noelle R.

Where: Hamburg, PA

"I love walking down those stairs (which don't squeak anymore) every day. It looks so much brighter and cleaner and smells so much better. The people we bought the house from were smokers and had two dogs, a cat, and a ferret. It looked like a mess, even when it was clean. So seeing the end result is wonderful!"

Who did the work: "We did all the work ourselves."

Cost: $1,000 to $5,000

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A Family Space: Before

Who: Remigiusz P.

Where: South Hadley, MA

"The basement was only one-quarter finished in knotty-pine walls and bare concrete floors, as well as a 60-year-old workshop with literally a ton of old metal, nails, and screws. Everything was gutted and replaced by new walls, electric, and plumbing. All the windows were replaced and a new egress window well was installed, as well as a new staircase."

A Family Space: After

Who: Remigiusz P.

Where: South Hadley, MA

"Whenever I come down, I see in my mind the work that each family member contributed. I see my wife's dad kneeling and tiling, my wife and her mom painting, and my son handing me screws for the drywall. It is now a true family space created by our family. It is very energy efficient, as it requires little cooling or heating, and allows our guests a lot of extra space we did not have before."

Who did the work: "We did most of the work ourselves."

Cost: $10,000 to $25,000

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Original Is Best: Before

Who: Emily B.

Where: Bristol, TN

"Layers of vinyl tile were removed with the original intent to lay porcelain tile. Hardwood was discovered beneath the vinyl, and therefore the original hardwood was restored. All new plumbing was installed in order to replace the outdated and nonfunctional cast-iron drainpipes. Plaster was removed from one wall in order to expose a brick wall."

Original Is Best: After

Who: Emily B.

Where: Bristol, TN

"I absolutely love the original features that were discovered and restored in this remodel—the window, hardwoods, and beadboard ceiling. I always say 'original is best,' and this project proved it."

Who did the work: "I did some of the work myself but a contractor did most of it."

Cost: $1,000 to $5,000

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Brand New Basement With Space for The Family: Before

Who: Heidi K.

Where: Sioux Falls, SD

"My husband and I gutted the entire basement family room and bathroom. We replaced all the drywall, installed recessed lighting, and used the existing bedroom closet as an area for our built-in TV. The bathroom was also fully gutted, and we installed a walk-in tile shower and new flooring. My husband also built a custom vanity."

Brand New Basement With Space for The Family: Before

Who: Heidi K.

Where: Sioux Falls, SD

"We love our corner area, where we can watch movies together as a family! Our kids love to snuggle up with us, and it feels like we have our own little theatre. Dividing the room into different zones was a great choice. While the kids are playing games at the table, I can be working on the computer at the desk while my husband watches football. There is plenty of room for all sorts of fun!"

Who did the work: "We did most of the work ourselves."

Cost: $1,000 to $5,000

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A Summer Day Oasis: Before

Who: Susan S.

Where: Ware, MA

"My husband single-handedly turned our entire basement into usable space. He framed, drywalled, and tiled. He installed drywall around the ceiling duct work and added a dropped ceiling in other areas. He installed tile and engineered wood floors throughout. He installed kitchen cabinets, counter tops, and custom fitted a microwave. He built a custom bar and made brick arches to hide supports."

A Summer Day Oasis: After

Who: Susan S.

Where: Ware, MA

"It's great space to entertain the family and our college-age kids. The space is informal enough that we can grab popcorn or pop a pizza in the oven in the kitchen while we relax and enjoy the big game on the extra-large TV. And with the bar, it is perfect for guests and parties. As an added bonus, because the space is a basement and stays cool, we save on summer air-conditioning costs. It is a summer day oasis!"

Who did the work: "My husband did all the work himself."

Cost: $10,000 to $25,000

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Active Space for Long Winters: Before

Who: Elaine S.

Where: Minneapolis, MN

"We started with an uneven subfloor complete with chipping asbestos tile, a caving-in foundation, cement-block walls, ductwork that was everywhere, and some water 'issues.' The scope of our work included fixing all previous issues, designing the floor plan, framing, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and all the finish work (including tiling, flooring, countertops, and trim)."

Active Space for Long Winters: After

Who: Elaine S.

Where: Minneapolis, MN

"We are extremely pleased with the utilization of square footage in a fixed space that presented some challenges, as older homes often do. We took a basement that was never designed with a finished space in mind and turned it into our favorite area of the house. In addition to providing the ideal space for my active toddler during long Minnesota winters, the Zen bathroom provides a wonderful respite for us."

Who did the work: "We did most of the work ourselves."

Cost: $25,000 to $50,000

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